5S represents Japanese words that describe the steps of a workplace organization process. English equivalent words are shown in parenthesis
- Seiri (Sort)
- Seiton (Straighten, Set)
- Seiso (Shine, Sweep)
- Seiketsu (Standardize)
- Shitsuke (Sustain)
In simple terms, the five S methodology helps a workplace remove items that are no longer needed (sort), organize the items to optimize efficiency and flow (straighten), clean the area in order to more easily identify problems (shine), implement color coding and labels to stay consistent with other areas (standardize) and develop behaviors that keep the workplace organized over the long term (sustain).
It is also referred to as 6S or 5S+S (adding Safety or Security) or even 7s (adding Spirit and Safety). Not to be confused with Six Sigma (often written as 6s).
Watch this video, which explains the steps, and provides video time lapse of how a healthcare organization performed their 5S event
Here is a breakdown of each ‘S’
1. Sort (seiri) – Distinguishing between necessary and unnecessary things, and getting rid of what you do not need
- Remove items not used in area – outdated materials, broken equipment, redundant equipment, files on the computer, measurements which you no longer use
- Ask staff to tag all items which they don’t think are needed – this improves understanding about need and use
- Classify all equipment and materials by frequency of use to help decide if it should be removed – place ‘Red Tag’ on items to be removed
- Establish a ‘holding area’ for items that are difficult to classify – hold item for allotted period to enable others not on 5S team to review
2. Straighten (seiton) – The practice of orderly storage so the right item can be picked efficiently (without waste) at the right time, easy to access for everyone. A place for everything and everything in its place.
- Identify and allocate a place for all the materials needed for your work
- Assign fixed places and fixed quantity
- Make it compact
- Place heavy objects at a height where they are easy to pick from
- Decide how things should be put away, and obey those rules
3. Shine (seiso) – Create a clean worksite without garbage, dirt and dust, so problems can be more easily identified (leaks, spills, excess, damage, etc)
- Identify root causes of dirtiness, and correct process
- Only one work activity on a workspace at any given time
- Keep tools and equipment clean and in top condition, ready for use at any time
- Cleanliness should be a daily activity – at least 5 minutes per day
- Use chart with signatures/initials shows that the action or review has taken place
- Ensure proper lighting – it can be hard to see dirt and dust
4. Standardize (seiketsu) – Setting up standards for a neat, clean, workplace
- Standardization of best practices through ‘visual management’
- Make abnormalities visible to management
- Keep each area consistent with one another
- Standards make it easy to move workers into different areas
- Create process of how to maintain the standard with defined roles and responsibilities
- Make it easy for everyone to identify the state of normal or abnormal conditions – place photos on the walls, to provide visual reminder
5. Sustain (shitsuke) – Implementing behaviors and habits to maintain the established standards over the long term, and making the workplace organization the key to managing the process for success
- Toughest phase is to Sustain – many fall short of this goal
- Establish and maintain responsibilities – requires leader commitment to follow through
- Every one sticks to the rules and makes it a habit
- Participation of everyone in developing good habits and buy-in
- Regular audits and reviews
- Get to root cause of issues
- Aim for higher 5S levels – continuous improvement
Originally, the technique was called ‘4S’, with Set and Shine combined. However, Toyota and most other companies use the 5S as a standard.
Other improvement experts like Paul Akers have promoted the use of 3S on a daily basis in his book “2 Second Lean,” to focus on Sort, Sweep and Standardize, and not focus as much on straighten or sustain. He credits Hoks in Japan with teaching him this approach, as they felt 5S was too complicated.
The other options to include with 5S are Safety, Security and Spirit.
Safety: Safety is often said that it is implied within 5S that everything should be done with safety as the number one priority, but to ensure that is the case, Safety is added as an additional S. It is particularly prominent in manufacturing, warehouses, heavy equipment, construction, healthcare and laboratory settings, and in other contexts where potentially dangerous equipment or substances may be involved, and less prominent in office settings.
Spirit: To ensure that the focus of 5S is to make it easier for the workers, Spirit is added to remind people that it should be fun, and that creativity is key to coming up with new ideas and better ways to implement 5S. Without engaged workers, the 5S approach will not last or be successful.
Isolocity offers an example of how sustaining 5S in the workplace can be automated through software.
In Gemba Kaizen, author Masaaki Imai mentions another method, called 5 C’s (or five-C’s):
- Clear out
- Clean and check
- Custom and practice
Electronic (Digital 5S) Methods
A newer approach to 5S is using the methods to better manage the digital world (files, shared drives, networks, servers and more).
Check out this free short course, called “Electronic 5S” to learn more
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5S AT HOME
5S also works well in the home. A popular method is the KonMari method, developed by Marie Kondo. Here are some resources about her.
- Tidying Up with Marie Kondo (Netflix)
- Book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up)
- Book: Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up)
- Free Course: Lean at Home Certification (includes 5S section)
You can also find a local organizer to help you through the process, through the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) >>>« Back to Glossary Index